Not everyone loved it. Tucker Stone tore it apart pretty thoroughly:
there's not an ounce of thrills to be found. Christopher Nolan seemed to realize that, and so there's a scene, right after the final heist has begun, where all of the stakes are changed--sure, everything up until the rain-swept warehouse scene began made it clear that you couldn't threaten someone with death inside a dream, but apparently you can if the dreamers are under the magic version of sedation that the nerdy guy is using, and while Leo and the nerd knew that, they didn't tell anybody because they didn't think it mattered and it really wouldn't have except for the fact that the loyal badass best friend research guy missed a key piece of information about the mark whose mind they're heisting and oh well never mind maybe it does matter if you get shot. It does matter! Now! Because I said so!Roger Ebert praised it as a great example of exciting film making:
So skilled is Nolan that he actually got me involved in one of his chases, when I thought I was relatively immune to scenes that have become so standard. That was because I cared about who was chasing and being chased.
I thought it was terrific. My initial interpretation was that it was remarkably similar in plot to Dicaprio's last film, Shutter Island. Almost an unofficial sequel. I concluded that Ariadne (a mythological character who solves labyrinths) was Cobb's therapist.
But then I read Cinematical's six different, plausible interpretations of the what was going on in the movie.
My favorite is that Saito realizes at the beginning of the movie that Cobb is inside his head. Everything after that is Saito pulling a "Mr. Charles" and creating layer after layer of dreaming until Cobb accepts a prison in limbo. Key points in favor of that theory are (1) Saito plants the idea in Cobb's head that he can be reunited with his children; (2) Saito implausibly saves Cobb in Mombasa; (3) in the opium den, Saito stops Cobb from checking his spinning top to see if he's dreaming; (4) Saito explains the mission; (5) Fischer implausibly fails to recognize Saito even though they are major competitors; and (6) Saito makes it necessary for Cobb to go to Limbo.
Mal is Cobb's subconcious trying to protect him - - she keeps trying to convince him it's a dream using a variety of tactics: (1) killing the people that are misleading him; (2) using all sorts of temptation and coercion to provoke him into killing himself; and (3) explaining that the plot of the dream, that a mysterious conglomerate is out to get Cobb, is incredibly farfetched.